Ideal loft layouts
  • davido
    Posts: 889
    If you were designing an organ/choir loft, how would it be arranged?
    I am particularly interested in seating of figuration of choir.
    What features do you like?
    What features do you hate?

    Do you have a novel set up?

    Diagrams are welcome!
  • Organ in two chambers or cases. Choir on risers between. Console centered facing choir. Conducting platform optionally available but unobtrusive when conducting from console. No seating for the choir in singing area. Seating elsewhere in gallery, but with open room for instrumentalists near choir space.
    Thanked by 1Elmar
  • SFDSO in StLouis before — ideal. Now — worst nightmare.
  • Elmar
    Posts: 502
    NiNo, this sounds pretty ideal to me as well; except that I'd prefer the choir to be seated where they sing.
    Indispensable: a staircase wide enough for a stair lift!
    Optional: as a second escape route, an inflatable slide from a retired airliner.
  • dad29
    Posts: 2,218
    Console centered facing choir.

    I've found that when the console is at a 90 degree angle to the choir it is FAR more flexible; the organist can look directly at the conductor (on a riser at the 'back' of the console) OR the conductor-organist can be better seen by the choir while conducting with one hand and eyebrows. (Choir in semi-circle facing altar, adjusting their position to accommodate the physical location of the conductor.) It's also a lot easier for the organist to see the celebrant if the organ is at 90 degrees.
    Thanked by 1Elmar
  • I have worked in both situations, and definitely prefer to face the choir. I conduct at the bench with either hand, can survey the whole choir, and not take eyes too far from the music.

    Saw a loft once with stairstepped risers going down to a console perpendicular to the sanctuary at the far right of the gallery. I guess the choir could turn and be conducted by the organist, or face out along with the organist when someone else conducted.
    Thanked by 1Elmar
  • The choir risers (with seating or without) in a U shape to help blend, preferably between the organ cases or directly in front of them. Two tiers, possibly three.
    Mobile organ console is a must, this makes it easier when serving as just accompanist with a separate director or when doing it all.
    Extra floor space or enough room in the center of the choral risers for instruments is ideal.
    A corner where timpani can be placed is excellent as well.
  • I've found that when the console is at a 90 degree angle to the choir it is FAR more flexible; the organist can look directly at the conductor (on a riser at the 'back' of the console) OR the conductor-organist can be better seen by the choir while conducting with one hand and eyebrows.

    This really depends on the type of console and how high the risers are. English cathedral console? Forget it. Turn the thing. Low french jambs? By all mean conduct right over it, especially if the risers are plenty high and you keep the music rack low.

    I find it difficult, personally, to not face the choir head-on; when you don't, your aural perception of their singing is drastically skewed so it's difficult to correct errors as they sing (because you can't hear them).
    Thanked by 1NihilNominis
  • HATE risers.
    The place I work now has 3 rows of "build-in riser" (i.e., 3 different levels of floor.) this may work for a large group, but in a small Schola where the conductor also sings, it's a mess: it's hard to keep one's eyes on the music, and if you look up to the top row, the head's tilted too much for good singing posture.
  • dad29
    Posts: 2,218
    so it's difficult to correct errors as they sing

    I pre-resolved that matter by simply not allowing errors.
  • GambaGamba
    Posts: 542
    1) Flexibility is key. There is nothing worse than a loft with nothing but fixed risers too shallow to fit a chair and a music stand for a violinist/trombone/serpent player, or risers too deep to fit a choir that fills 6 rows into the four rows provided. This booklet from Wenger (the people who make conductors’ platforms, orchestra/choral chairs, etc.) has charts for recommended amount of space for different ensembles. Planning Guide.pdf Movable platforms would be better to me than built-in levels.

    2) (if operating in a less-than-perfect world) provision for an undelayed monitor speaker at the organ, to give you a direct link with a singer in front. In any good sound system nowadays, the speakers in a big room are programmed with increasing delay from the front of the room to the back, so that you don’t get the soupy sound that results from speakers in back firing before the natural sound of the person speaking has had time to travel from the front. But if you’re trying to do music from two ends of the building at once, you want an undelayed connection to the vocalist. That needs to be planned while the wiring conduits etc. are being designed.

    3) Elevator if at all possible. For all the jokes about stairs being the Great Eliminator and a good Retirement Planner for older singers….someone infirm is going to need to get upstairs at some point, you’ll want to bring up music stands and 50 new Graduals, some wicked person after you may want to bring up profane instruments like timpani or harp…

    4) Storage. As much as possible, dedicated to the music department. For stands and lights, extra chairs, etc. Everything you don’t want to have to drag upstairs on December 23 and drag down after midnight Mass.
  • This used to be my loft. I hated trying to put any instrumentalists up there because they had to sit on one riser, music stand on another, etc. Just 4 brass players took up 1/3 of the usable riser space.
    8480 x 2144 - 6M
    4032 x 1960 - 2M
  • Here is the new loft without the risers. We love it so much. There was a nice hardwood floor under the risers and carpet.
    7568 x 3392 - 8M
  • What is the large black contraption sitting on top of the organ console?
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 5,159
    I think it's a zimbelstern.
    Thanked by 1Mattspmusic0320
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,967
    Yes, that's what it looks like. I don't recall seeing one on an organ console; I have seen them mounted on the gallery rail or a projection therefrom.
  • Yes, it is a zimbelstern. It has not been incoorporated into the organ. It is I have a bit of a redneck set up.... Haha! It has a long extension cord and power strip. Just flip the switch on the power strip to get it to work, and remeber to turn it back off before releasing that chord. I bought it myself about two years ago because I really wanted to have one for Holy Week during the Glorias on Holy Thursday and Easter Vigil.
  • davido
    Posts: 889
    What about position of the organ itself?
    Our cathedral seats the choir between the two organ cases and the sound is deafening, while in front of the cases at the front of the loft where the instruments usually sit the sound is very much equalized, what you would expect.
  • Here's a diagram of our choir loft's layout. Most of the singers wind up in front of the chambers, but it is nice to have the space between them.

    The blank area behind the pews in their dips is excellent for orchestral musicians. LH side for strings, RH side for brass / timpani, with the cantor stand shifted out of the way. When we are using area mics for the choir (good to have the option -- and not always inadvisable with carpet still on the main floor and with a full church, although I prefer not to), those spaces are beyond the reach of the microphones, and so the instrumentalists and organ sing directly into the room, for the most part.
    2476 x 1450 - 293K
    Thanked by 1Bri
  • I’m quite happy with the loft layout of the Houston co-cathedral. If you’re not familiar, I can take a picture. Basically, there’s tiered seating for singers, and a pit at the bottom for instruments. I wouldn’t mind if the pit were a touch larger, but overall—it’s my favorite loft I've had to work in.
  • davido
    Posts: 889
    A picture would be great, thanks!
  • Here's a pic from the organ console. Hopefully you can see the tiered seating for singers and the pit area at the bottom.

    4032 x 3024 - 3M
  • I had the pleasure of visiting there about six years ago and I was absolutely amazed at how beautiful the church is. I was amazed to see so much of it is made out of marble—a rarity these days! To say nothing of the stunning organ and that huge window.
  • The organ has its quirks for sure, but overall I can’t complain. Happy to be able to help out a friend and cover some masses.
  • Looks awfully much like the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Houston.
    I, like many here, have played dozens of organs in my lifetime. Of these, the Pasi at the co-cathedral is my favourite. (Oh)! What one would give for some serious colour about this vast utterly colourless sacred space.'

    This gallery requires a director and an organist. In my opinion seating in the choir gallery should mirror that of the choir's rehearsal space (vice versa, actually). It is best that the organ console should be before the choir for good communication. Of course, if one has a tracker this is almost a necessity.
  • At Walsingham we have a choir which is seated in three risers above the floor. The (tracker) organ console faces liturgical west and the organist is able to see with the aid of several mirrors very well acts in the chancel.

    The Choir room Is very large (made to order with high 'cathedral ceiling and very good acoustics) and on one side are built in risers to mimic those in the church's choir gallery.

    The choir sit down front 'in choir' on special occasions such as evensong when large numbers of servers and other personages are not required.
    When a new cathedral is built it is a given that there will a 'choir' up front which will be large enough to seat the choir as well as any from the sanctuary who need to sit there.

    Thanked by 1ServiamScores
  • This gallery requires a director and an organist. In my opinion seating in the choir gallery should mirror that of the choir's rehearsal space (vice versa, actually).

    Couldn't agree more. If it were up to me, and there was no issue with money, a movable console in the pit would be first priority—and it would be easy as the whole organ is already electrified—none of the divisions are purely tracker. Even following the director through the mirror is a new and frustrating experience for someone (me) that has only ever used consoles facing the director at some angle or another. A remote console by the cantor would also be useful, but much more of a luxury. The time delay for a nearly block-long nave greatly reduces the enjoyment of making music in the liturgy at cantor-only masses.

    I think the concept of a rehearsal space that mirrors the main space is fantastic. I've never had that luxury, but I would imagine that it would be very advantageous.
  • davido
    Posts: 889
    For those that don’t like risers and have the choir on the floor, how do you handle visibility?
    Do you have a small group that can stand close to the console?
    Is your console recessed in the floor?
    Do you have a low profile console?

    It seems to me that chairs, no risers, and a low profile console offers the most flexibility. What issues do you see arising with such a set up?
  • It is hard conducting from the console if there are no risers. In the case of my loft, we also removed the worst looking carpet (which was a big part of the motivation for the change). I envision my church eventually updating the organ as the old Peterson relay is very limited and I would assume parts will be more and more difficult to come by. I've considered a digital hybrid organ so that if the pipe fall too flat, we can just use digital sounds. This was an issue I had at Christmas. The handbell choir played and the organ was so flat I had to jump to piano whoch was less flat... ['Tis the program we inhert when we accept the job offer.]
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,967
    Just as an FYI, this is the layout of the gallery in the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, Boston:

    (a bitter cold wintry morning after a sleet/ice storm combo)
    Thanked by 2CHGiffen Bri